SALEM - The main event of Combat Zone 47, pitting the undefeated current and former No. 1 ranked amateur welterweights in the Northeast against one another, was expected to rock the Sports Club at Rockingham Park, and it lived up to advance billing when Andrew Tripp needed the entire three rounds to defeat Paul Gaffney by a razor thin unanimous decision on Friday night.
Tripp, who hails from North Waterboro, Maine, and lost the top ranking to Manchester's Gaffney when he dropped out of the local fight scene and moved to Montana last year, returned home and reclaimed his position when all three judges scored the battle 29-28.
"It was the third round that made the difference and that's where I won the fight," said the 21-year-old Tripp, who improved to 6-0. "I was sloppy in the first two rounds. If I was tight, it should have ended in the first round but I lost position. I wasn't strong enough to continually ground and pound the way I should have. I trained hard and didn't have any ring rust, but I should have been in better shape. I thought I was in good shape, but I wasn't. I hit him pretty hard and that might have had something to do with it because it took some gas out of me. If I had been crisp, it wouldn't have lasted as long as it did. I had opportunities to finish him and I didn't. But a win is a win. That was a great win because now I am number one again."
Gaffney, who bears the standard of Team Link, battled valiantly and scored points repeatedly in the first two rounds when he escaped Tripp's attempts to submit him by guillotine chokes. But he could not put Tripp away when it counted.
"I should have fought harder and better and now I know I need to get back in the gym and work on the mistakes that I made. I defended him the best that I could and I felt it could have gone either way, but that's the way it goes," said Gaffney, who slipped to 3-1.
Gaffney and his wife, Heidi, are parents to 6-year-old Paul IV and 4-year-old Harlee Grace, both of whom suffer from Canavan Disease. The disease is an untreatable and incurable degenerative disorder of the nerve cells in the brain and the Gaffney family valiantly wages war against it every day. The fans were overwhelmingly on Gaffney's side.
"I felt the crowd behind me and I heard a lot of people screaming for me throughout the whole fight. Their amazing support made me feel really good," Gaffney said.
In the co-main event of the card stacked with highly regarded amateurs from across the region, top-ranked ranked heavyweight Javier Velasquez of Connors MMA prevailed in a split decision over No. 4 ranked Xavier Vargas from Methuen, Mass., by maintaining better control throughout the three rounds and fending off the attempts of his opponent to submit him by guillotine choke holds.
"My position was just better and I can take punches," said Velasquez, who wasn't pleased with his effort despite remaining undefeated at 4-0. "My cardio wasn't what it should have been. He was in better shape than I was and it showed."
All Amateur Card:
170- Andrew Tripp (No. Waterboro, ME) def. Paul Gaffney (Manchester, NH) by unanimous decision
210-Javier Velasquez (Roslindale, MA) def. Xavier Vargas (Plaistow, NH) by split decision
130- Jay Perrin (Hudson, NH) def. Kenny Murphy (Manchester, NH) by split decision
140- Jake Pilla (Billerica, MA) def. Jordan Yantin (Methuen, MA) by TKO :30 round 1
170- David Spero (Atkinson, NH) by DQ of Corey Bowhall (Watertown, NY) for illegal strikes :12 round 1
185- Brad O'Brien (Tyngsboro, MA) def. Andrew Cutter (Berwick, ME) by TKO 2:36 round 1
145- Paulo Alves DeSousa (Malden, MA) def. Ivan Sanchez (Lawrence, MA) by TKO 2:41 round 1
150- Danny Abad (Watertown, MA) def. Dave Sousa (North Andover, MA) by rear naked choke 1:25 round 2
170 - Jimmy Munoz (Lawrence, MA) def. Marty Sheehan (Charlestown, MA), by TKO 1:07 round 2